Here, for your viewing pleasure, are two videos - one of the first day of the Gredos ride and the other of me longeing Starbuck with two reins - each one attached to one of the side-rings of her halter, then passed through the D-rings on the roller and both held in one hand while the other hand used the whip for impulsion. I was inspired by Gaby and his son José who both have years of experience starting colts but in very different ways to try this method which just like Vienna reins, a Chambon or Side reins encourages the horse to stretch their neck forward and down (thus working the back muscles in a more effective and relaxed way), but with much more "give". I really noticed a little bit of difference in her head carriage and all my desensitizing with ropes really paid off - she didn't get worried about all these new lines all over her back at all.
In other news, we had a fairly nice return to normality after the Gredos trip. When I got back on Monday I went out to the stable and mostly just played with Starbuck first on the longe line and then at liberty, then on Tuesday afternoon I rode her for a fair amount of time working on lots of sitting trot (still at intervals of 10 strides in posting trot then 11 strides in sitting trot) and getting a little more energy in her walk. On Wednesday evening we had a lesson but she was so tense and rebellious (mostly sore from Tuesday's ride but a little bit bitchy for bitchy's sake) that I was stressing way out (it's vicious circle time, folks!) and decided to dismount. But as soon as I got out of the saddle I snapped on the longeline and longed her at a brisk trot and asking for lots of canter transitions until she calmed down and had her full attention on me, then I mounted back up and cooled her down at a slow trot and then walk while riding. The lesson I want her to learn is that getting me out of the saddle does NOT mean a break for her and that if she'll just chill out and pay attention she gets less homework.
I am noticing how much stronger she is and how much more stamina she has than only a month or so ago, she can work much longer without getting tired. On the one hand I'm thrilled by this since it means that she can carry me more easily and will have less muscle aches, and that I can ride her for longer periods of time and doing more intensive exercises. On the other hand when she's hot it takes a LOT longer to cool her down and at some point will just be nigh impossible by "wearing her out". But luckily I'm also improving as a rider and so will hopefully be able to ride through her crazy patches and tire her out mentally rather than physically.
Friday I got off work late and went to the stable without any plans to ride - I didn't even change out of my jeans, just zipped my half-chaps over them and went to work. I longed her for a while but she was so tuned into me and relaxed that I decided to end the session riding her at the end of the arena, which was lovely!
Saturday morning I had another lesson but I had to break away from the rest of the group before too long, the rest of the ladies in the class have a lower level than I do (most of them still canter on the longe even with the lesson horses) so when Starbuck acts up I get nervous that she'll spook or piss off one of their horses and they won't be able to control it. So we went off to the other side and did our own thing which after a while went so well that towards the end of our ride I even took her over to the scary side of the arena and did a few circles there. She freaked out and did her spook thing but I was ready for it and much more relaxed, and thus able to ride it out and get her back in line. The best part was at the end of the group lesson when all the students were switching horses and adjusting stirrups and such Marina snapped the longe line on and longed Starbuck and I for about 15 minutes. Which means that Starbuck gets in the habit of doing some steady work without looking for trouble and I can work on my seat and posture without having to worry about steering. Marina's even suggested that we could make a routine of this and take advantage of the "class change" time to work a little on the longe line a few times a week, which I'd be thrilled about!